Innovative programs in Hanover schools.

Curriculum specialists Ian Shenk and Tami Slater joined Hanover Center for Trades and Technology principal Justin Roerink for a special presentation to the Hanover County School Board regarding innovative programs in Hanover schools.

ASHLAND -- Educators are constantly seeking new and innovative methods to teach traditional subjects or searching for new methodology that better prepares students for the future.

Hanover County School Board members learned last week how two programs in Hanover County Public Schools are utilizing creative and non-traditional methods to teach English and mathematics.

Some Geometry/Algebra students at Patrick Henry High School are exposed to new ways of thinking regarding problem-solving and some changes in the classroom that might buck some “old school” thinking.

Mathematics curriculum specialist Ian Shenk outlined a program called Mathematics Workshop. “In short, the mathematics workshop model takes an innovative approach to the traditional math sequence,” he said.

Instead of a teacher beginning class by solving problems or a lecture, students are presented with problems that require creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

“Unlike traditional classrooms where teachers do most of the math, the workshop model allows for students to be the ones actually doing the math,” Shenk said.

“They talk with each other, work collaboratively, and have choice about the activities that they are going to complete,” he added.

The model emphasizes collaboration, communication, creative problem-solving and critical thinking.

Mathematics isn’t the only subject utilizing innovative methods to better prepare students for the workplace.

Justin Roerink, principal of the Hanover Center for Trades and Technology, said a new class called English for the Workplace is designed to provide students with real-life writing and communication skills.

This class prepares students for real-life communication in the workplace or other professional settings.

“Workplace Readiness English has also worked on interpersonal skills such as handshaking, eye contact and posture and body language for professional settings, and currently we are working on phone and email etiquette,” said Tami Slater, English curriculum specialist.

“While our focus is on Workplace English, we are not ignoring the Standards of Learning,” Slater said. “Students are reading and writing every day.”

Roerink said the new English class is receiving rave reviews from students who enroll.

“All of our course content is important and understandable. It prepares us better than any other class I’ve been in before,” one student said of the class.

Another commented, “I would recommend this course because it really helped with preparing me for the workforce and everyone needs those skills.”

School board member John Axselle applauded the efforts and said his real-life experience confirms the need for better communication skills in the workplace.

He said some companies are providing employees with classes that assist in interpersonal communication or how to talk to other people.

Axselle said the dependence on personal devices and an online presence might have contributed to the problem.

“One of the things that concerns me about that is that you lose that interaction with people that I think is a very vital part of life: teamwork, collaboration and other things,” Axselle said.

Superintendent Michael Gill said the two classes highlighted in the presentation are only a sampling of innovative education taking place in county schools.

“This only represented two items … but I think it is representative of the innovation that is going on throughout the division,” Gill said. “It’s easy to say we want innovation, but it takes visionary leadership from our leaders, from or building administrators, from our Central Office specialists -- and I think that has been demonstrated here this evening.”

In other matters, a budget workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 22, the Central Office.

The school board will officially consider the proposed budget for adoption at its Feb. 12 meeting.

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